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What are Bermuda Shorts?

By Devon Pryor
Updated May 21, 2024
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Bermuda shorts are a clothing item named for the place where they first became a popular fashion. They are a style of trouser shorts that are cut to just above the knee. Being short pants, the are considered semi-casual and are usually neatly tailored with cleanly cut lines and a clean hem.

These short trousers were first worn by members of the British Army, particularly those stationed in areas where weather was too hot for pants, such as deserts and tropical zones. In the early 1900s, a number of these British armed forces members were stationed in the British overseas territory of Bermuda. The same style of shorts were later worn by businessmen in this same area. This is, supposedly, where the shorts got their name.

Bermuda shorts became widely popular as acceptable business attire in the hot tropical climate of Bermuda. Those worn by businessmen were usually made from a fine material, the same used in making suits. They were, in fact, usually worn as part of a suit, with dress socks up to the knee a dress shirt, a tie, and a blazer or other tailored jacket. For this reason, they are sometimes called dress shorts, because they are considered to be something a man can wear and still be appropriately “dressed.”

These shorts were originally designed for men, but they later began to be worn by both men and women. The length of the shorts is the same in both cases, and they are often worn as vacation attire. It's quite common to see tourists in Bermuda or other tropical islands wearing them. One adaptation made for women is a skirt of the same material and length, and with the same waistband, front closure, and pockets. This may be called a Bermuda skirt. Bermuda shorts are also still worn by the British armed forces, in the British Royal Navy in particular.

Bermuda shorts are also considered an essential clothing item in what is known as preppy style, which is the term used to describe the clothing styles popular in prep schools. The preppy style is characterized by tailored clothes and a conservative style. For boys, this may include items such as V-neck sweaters, dress shirts, loafer shoes, blazers, long shorts, and cleanly cut trousers. For girls, popular preppy items may include well-tailored skirts, button-down blouses, wool or cashmere sweaters, and dress shoes.

Available in solid or printed colors, Bermuda shorts are particularly popular in solid navy blue, solid khaki, and solid pastel colors. Also popular is the repeated icon print. In this style, one icon, such as a sailboat or animal, is repeated across the solid background of the material. The printed icon often has an embroidered look, or may actually be embroidered onto the solid-colored fabric.

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